By on October 8, 2018

The long-suffering Elio Motors, whose ambition to launch a low-cost, high-MPG three-wheeler was recently revived by the launch of a weird cryptocurrency, is no longer seeking a custom engine for its novel automobile.

Early Elio prototypes carried a transplanted three-cylinder engine sourced from the illustrious Geo Metro, with the fledgling automaker claiming it had a 900cc triple of 55 horsepower in its sights. Well, plans change. The company, which hopes to start production in Louisiana next year, says it has secured a deal with an existing automaker for the car’s powerplant.

In a media release displaying a clear lack of knowledge of commas, the automaker claims it entered into a memorandum of understanding with a “Fortune 500 OEM” for the little mill. This arrangement, Elio says, will save the company piles of cash that would otherwise go towards R&D. Suffice it to say money is still tight at Elio.

The task of marrying the car with the new engine is the responsibility of performance parts developer Roush.

“Purchasing an OEM’s existing powertrain has an enormous impact on the project, it helps both expedite the timeline, and it directly reduces our capital requirement by about $120 million dollars,” said Elio Motors CEO Paul Elio. “This powertrain will also greatly enhance the Elio’s performance by nearly doubling its horsepower while still maintaining class-leading fuel economy at an affordable ultra-low price.”

If you’re thinking the engine in question is Ford’s 1.0-liter EcoBoost three-cylinder, you’re not alone. Elio claims the mill “should offer nearly a 100% increase in horsepower rating when compared to initial Elio prototype vehicles,” leading to “excellent driver response and a highly improved acceleration time.”

It’s anyone’s guess as to whether the company will achieve its target of 84 miles per gallon with this mill, but the bigger question remains whether production will ever actually start in Shreveport.

[Image: Elio Motors]

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25 Comments on “Forget About Geo: Elio Motors Taps OEM for Diminutive Trike Engine...”


  • avatar
    FormerFF

    I could have told them to do that. Sheesh.

    • 0 avatar
      Russycle

      No kidding. How many years have they lost playing the “design our own engine” game? I like the Elio concept, but these guys don’t seem to be the sharpest pencils in the box.

      I doubt we’ll ever see it, but an ecoboost in one of these would make a darn quick little sled.

  • avatar
    cicero1

    What happens first: Elio produces a car or Tool releases a new CD?

  • avatar
    indi500fan

    Back when Elio was hyping the progress of their in-house engine program, I asked on here “has the die cast tooling for the engine and transmission cases been built yet?”
    Apparently the answer was no….

  • avatar
    SCE to AUX

    This is almost like the revival of Saab saga, which plagued these pages for years.

  • avatar
    IBx1

    Why would they ever have elected to design and build their own engine instead of buying any of the multitude of efficient engines out there?

    • 0 avatar
      ScarecrowRepair

      Because they’ve been around so long that the roll-your-own decision was made back when there were no obvious alternatives and it made sense.

    • 0 avatar
      Dawnrazor

      I wonder if the main issues boiled down to marketing and basic hubris? They were eager to “prove themselves” and be seen as a legitimate player in the industry, and having the design, manufacturing, and fiscal prowess to build virtually all the sub-assemblies in-house could have potentially gone a long way toward establishing themselves as such.

      There have been many now-defunct car companies who subcontracted major components to established automakers, and I think Elio simply wanted to avoid being seen in this light.

      • 0 avatar
        ScarecrowRepair

        I think hubris and misjudging how the market size. Their best marketing trick, I think, is that the price is so low that if you commute in an Elio, the cost ($7500) is so low, and the mileage so good (84 freeway, 49 city) that paying for the Elio is cheaper than gas alone. They claim to have a gas card which charges triple, with the excess going to car payments. So if your current commuter gets less than (84 / 3) 28 mpg, the Elio payments will total less than your current commuter gas payments. IOW, free for all practical purposes.

        And because small engines were pretty crappy when they first started, designing their own seemed like a good idea.

        But this marketing makes the Elio out to be just a commuter car, and how many people will buy a car for just that? I think they are way over-estimating how big their potential market is.

  • avatar
    NeilM

    Yeah, I’m sure the vehicle-buying public will be beating down Elio’s garage doors to buy a trike now that they’ve sourced an engine for the thing.

    Seems like a different deckchair vendor for the Titanic — well, if there was anything titanic to be seen here.

  • avatar
    ahintofpepperjack

    The could have just sourced the Mitsubishi 3 cylinder from the Mirage. That’s what Mercedes did with the old Smart cars.

  • avatar
    APaGttH

    Ford 1.0?
    GM 1.4?
    Honda L15B?

    Larger displacement motorcycle engine?

  • avatar
    SCE to AUX

    This is why Tesla chose not to re-invent the battery or even the car body back in 2008 for the Roadster 1.0 – too much to take on for a startup.

  • avatar

    “should offer nearly a 100% increase in horsepower rating when compared to initial Elio prototype vehicles.”

    The Elio triple was projected to put out 55 horsepower. The 1 liter Ecoboost puts out over 120 hp. That’s more than a 100% increase, so if it is the Ford triple, it’s detuned, perhaps without the turbo.

  • avatar

    Ford’s ecoboost engines are under investigation in the UK because of many unexplained fires and failures.
    https://www.bbc.com/news/av/uk-england-45684803/ford-to-refund-engine-fail-ecoboost-customers

  • avatar
    CombiCoupe99

    What have the employees of Elio been doing for the past several years? I imagine it is a quiet and lonely job. Just sitting around, waiting for something – anything to happen.

  • avatar
    Lightspeed

    Can we all just admit the three-wheel car thing is a scam/joke/cruel-hoax? Seriously, the only reason the 3-wheeler keeps getting revived is because it skirts the gray area in regulations between cars and motorbikes. With today’s tech, there’s really no meaningful efficiency advantage, and you have to pack a bunch more stability software into the beast. Please people, three wheels are meant for the “Big-Wheel” and DC-3s.

  • avatar
    HotPotato

    With double the power, this could be a fun car. But a tiny city car isn’t going to travel far, so why have an internal combustion engine in it at all? Unlike the six-figure luxury SUVs we keep hearing about, a city car is a really sensible use case for electric propulsion.

    Compared to an Elio, a Fiat 500e electric would be faster, safer, funner, and better looking — and it’s a screaming used-car bargain. Or if you want something even cuter and live in Europe, how about a Microlino — a modern electric Isetta? Or if you must have a trike, there’s the sexy Sondors for those who are willing to wait (possibly forever) and the not-so-sexy Electra Meccanica Solo for those who aren’t…both electric.

    I suspect the gasoline city car is basically obsolete at this point. So does Smart, apparently: they’re shifting to all-electric in some markets. And BMW is dropping the gasoline range extender version of the i3.

  • avatar
    vwsmiths

    I Don’t believe ICEs are totally defunct yet. And I Know there are 65,000 reservation holders who agree with me. AND When you start seeing these around, for under $10,000 , getting 65+ mpgs – you canbet they’ll sell ALL they can make the first few years ! Even Millenials and Me generations will take notice. The current offerings of $50,000 plus SUVs and expensive EVs do not…

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